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Comment of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine on violations of minority rights in Russia
27 March 2014 16:39

In Ukraine, we are concerned not only with increasing xenophobia, anti-Semitism and racism in the Russian Federation, but also with the prominent lack of protection of minority rights, which nearly universally falls short of European standards. 

This concern on the Ukrainian side is shared by the leading expert bodies of the Council of Europe, which regularly monitor various aspects of human rights in member states of the Council of Europe. 

Thus, in 2013, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe considered and adopted the report of the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in Russia for the third monitoring cycle and adopted the resolution CM/ResCMN (2013)1 dated April 30, 2013 on the application of the provisions of this convention in Russia. 

According to this document, the experts expressed serious concern about the lack of integrated Russian Federation legislation to combat discrimination by embracing all aspects of life and setting forth well-defined concepts of discrimination. Stressing that the existing powers and limited resources of the Commission for Human Rights of the Russian Federation does not allow it to properly protect the rights of national minorities, they pointed to the need for an independent specialized agency that would be concerned only with issues of discrimination and would have extensive monitoring capabilities. 

And according to the European experts, that authority would much to do, because: 

-Minorities still face widespread discrimination in areas such as employment and access to housing. Intolerance and hostility against "foreigners" are more and more openly displayed. In some regions, continued forcible eviction of the Roma occurs without providing adequate alternative housing. Wages and working conditions of the majority of the indigenous population  engaged in traditional activities do not meet the basic legal requirements; 

- In some regions, the system of registration of residency remains problematic and discriminatory because of administrative barriers, and sometimes due to corruption and discriminatory attitudes of law enforcement officers. The obstacles faced by migrant workers in the processing of registration and work permits make them particularly vulnerable to victimization by corrupt police officers in their own interests and to other types of abuses; 

- People from the Caucasus and Central Asia, and the Roma are subjected to selective and unnecessary frequent searches by the police, thus making them vulnerable to acts of corruption and other irregularities, including disproportionate use of force; 

-There is no support of any activities of national minorities other than cultural activities, and the procedure and criteria for the allocation of financial assistance for this purpose lacks transparency; 

-An alarming number of crimes are motivated by racial hatred and hostility, particularly against immigrants fro Central Asia, Africa, Asia and the Caucasus, as well as against the Roma.  Frequent manifestations of Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and ethnic clashes are seen, not infrequently inflamed by politicians and the media.  Increasingly, the speeches of politicians contain xenophobic and racist rhetoric, especially during election campaigns.  The media widely disseminates superstition, and occasionally uses hate speech against certain ethnic minorities; 

-Human rights activists and non-governmental organizations that deal with human rights and the rights of minorities are facing serious problems in the implementation of their right to freedom of association and expressing their opinions. When it comes to their actions in protecting the rights of minorities, they are prosecuted according to the law "On combating extremist activity”; 

-Despite the presence of legislative guarantees of the equality of all languages at the federal level in the Russian Federation, the general climate is not conducive to their use in daily life, including at the administrative level and on road signs. The use of minority languages in cities is declining rapidly, even among those members of minorities within their own local communities. The number of television programs and radio broadcasts in minority languages have also been reduced; 

- Existing provisions of federal legislation on the use of minority languages in schools are often not implemented at the local level, and therefore the specific guarantees of access to education in minority languages and the study of minority languages are not fulfilled. Moreover, a constant process of "optimization" of schools has led to the closure of various schools which teach minority languages and the elimination of classes which teach minority languages. 

As of today, Russia has not ratified the Council of Europe's key tool in protecting the linguistic rights of minorities, namely the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages dated   November 5, 1992.  It has been on the "back burner" since 2001, and as can be seen by the policies pursued by the Moscow authorities in the sphere of languages, is unlikely to be ratified in the near future.  Meanwhile, it is this Charter which could provide effective protection of language rights not only to one million ethnic Ukrainians (according to unofficial data, about 10 million) living in Russia, but also the language rights of all other national minorities, who constitute the national cultural diversity of the Federation. 

Accusing Ukraine of violating the rights of the Russian-speaking population, a country which not only ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in 2003, but has undergone and passed two rounds of monitoring procedures provided for in this treaty, Russia once again demonstrates the double standards it uses in regard to our country. 

 

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